I’m back in the United States!
I’ve actually been back for a while, but between graduation, summer school, working at Plainwell Ice Cream, job hunting, car hunting, meeting friends, working on a certification, gardening and just living life, that final message got pushed back a bit.
In fact, I’ve put it off long enough that the week is approaching when the next Lemus will set off on its own journey across the pond! This Friday, we’ll drop Alejandra off at the airport where she’ll fly to Aberdeen in Scotland (in the UK? I’m confused too).
That said, I write this last article not only as a reflection on my time abroad, but as advice for her as she prepares for her trip.
My first piece of advice: don’t study.
Ok, maybe study a bit. But when it’s your last week of school and you have the choice between spending 3 hours at the library, or 3 hours having dinner with your friends, have dinner. Time is funny. It goes slower when you want it to go fast, and faster when you want it to stop. A stay that seems daunting at first (and might make you wonder what you think you’re doing on Earth, and who on Earth you think you’ll be engaging in a completely new environment and continent for the next few months, and who’s going to take care of your cat?) passes before you know it. This time is meant to be cherished.
Savor each moment, but also believe in the next. Today you may wake up to the best sunrise. Tomorrow you may be further away from your friends. Today’s flight may be full of turbulence, but tomorrow’s will be a little smoother. Enjoy the good and know that the bad will pass. Both will make great blog posts.
My second piece of advice: Study.
Study how the roof of an old church meets the sky. Study which bars look bright and welcoming and full of local accents. Keep an eye out for weird meals and sharpen your sense of curiosity, try the new plate. Be sure to review your history. Learn the meaning of funny street names and statues. See the park’s native birds and the people who feed them. Take inspiration from your environment, it’s often the best way to learn.
Outside of your surroundings, study yourself. Write down what you like and what you don’t like. Which customs are easy to embody and which are best observed? Do you want to work your social battery tonight or take a moment to rest? What new acquaintances feel like old friends? When you are on your own, with the people you often depend on thousands of miles away, you will learn to rely on yourself. You will become more versed in your own thoughts and emotions than ever before, and even more confident in your decisions and actions.
A final thought:
A few summers ago, I sat on the grass in a park in my hometown and felt suffocated. In the midst of the pandemic, barely able to leave my house, I was clouded with the thought that I had cycled every street, walked every sidewalk, and drawn every experience from my hometown of the past 20 years as I could.
When I arrived home earlier this summer, my eyes were clear. The veil was lifted on what I remembered as a dreary, monotonous place. Why hadn’t I noticed the flowers growing along the road before? Had there always been a yoga practice so close? Of course, some aspects of our small town are still not for me, but I can see them now with the same eye I saw my new town in France, with quiet appreciation and curious anticipation of unexpected joys.
To answer the last questions:
Yes, I have become quite fluent in French. I spent my entire last day walking around with my host sister (who obviously speaks French) without reverting to English (maybe once). I also learned some nice filler words, including bahhh, frankly, and therefore, so I would say that counts for something. No, I don’t think Starbucks “chocolate croissants” taste like my dear stove to chocolate. Yes, I would go back to France in the blink of an eye and I would live there, or in Croatia, or in Barcelona. Yes, I keep in touch with my friends and host family from the trip, I miss them all the time.
Yes, I want to travel more. After such an exciting first few months of the year, I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of all the cultures, languages, relationships, and experiences the world has to offer.
If I’m lucky in life, I may have more opportunities to find them.
I leave this blog to you. Go be your best self in Scotland, then find an even better self that none of us even knew was possible. Being alone only means that there is absolutely nothing to hold you back. I look forward to visiting you and learning all about your new favorite places and people, and enjoying a Guinness with you. As we say in France, Bon voyage, good luck and good luck!
“Adventure is the treasure we discover every morning.”
Adventure is the treasure we discover every morning.
Jacques Brel (French singer and composer)